What is a keyword? And what is a keyphrase? The important differences.

What is a keyword

If you are just starting out with SEO, you’ll probably have asked yourself: “What is a keyword?” Keywords, as well as keyphrases and long-tail keywords, are important basic concepts that you need to know for keyword research. In this article, you will find out what each concept means and what it can do for you.

Keyword research is the vital first step towards optimising your website so that it ranks well in the search results. To do this research, you need to know what keywords, keyphrases, and long-tail keywords are. You also need to know what they can do for you and then build your strategy around them.

What is a keyword?

Basically, a keyword is a term which you would like your page to rank for when someone enters it into a search engine. They are the single words that best describe your content or your page.

Example: You operate an online shop selling jewellery want to optimise the general page for earrings. Therefore, you might choose “earrings” as a keyword, hoping to attract users entering that search term to that page.

The problem with (single) keywords is that search volumes are high and lead to a lot of irrelevant results. Consequently, getting a good ranking can be tough. It would be a shame to spend time optimising your page for your chosen keyword but then only end up on the 10th results page, lost among the competition. Instead, you could consider using keyphrases or long-tail keywords.

And keyphrases?

Keyphrases comprise several words (between 2 and 4) and are more specific than keywords. Therefore, they are more likely to generate more targeted and better-quality traffic to your website.

Looking at the above example, optimisation using the keyword “earrings” would not be the best strategy. Firstly, “earrings” is an extremely general term and is likely to generate too many (irrelevant) search results to be expedient for the users you want to target, who want to buy earrings. Secondly, due to the high search volume, your chances of ranking well are low.

Faced with this situation, users wanting to buy earrings are more likely to refine their search. They may search for a specific type of earring (e.g. drop earrings, Swarowski earrings). That’s what you should reflect on when crafting an SEO strategy.

In this case, it would be smarter to focus on keyphrases for certain categories of earrings (drop earrings, clip-on earrings etc.). Using them to optimise the various starting pages for the earring types will direct people searching for those products to those pages. Because keyphrases are more specific, there is less competition and your chances of ranking well will increase.

What about long-tail keywords?

Long-tail keywords are even more specific than keyphrases and, if used correctly, can result in high-quality traffic to your website. They can be used to target customers who are shopping for a certain product that you provide. Because long-tail keywords relate to niche markets, the search competition is much lower and your chances of snagging one of the top spots in the results much higher. A long-tail keyword may not generate a high volume of traffic. However, the traffic which you do manage to direct to your website carries a greater chance of converting because the search result is so relevant to the search performed.

So, to return to our jewellery store example, that might mean supplementing your strategy by drilling down to an even more granular level with your optimisation.  You might move past the general categories of earrings to optimise pages for sub-categories, with long-tail keywords like “drop earrings made from bamboo”. When people search using that specific term – be sure that your website is right there with a relevant offer.

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Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
Gründerin von RiskPlayWin | Inhaberin & Gründerin des juristischen Übersetzungsbüros Spezialis